Not just for kids

I've been working on a draft of a novel and am not exactly the most psyched person about how the story has turned out. I don't want it to be a blabber piece, where the character just talks and whines and tells us about every detail of their frustrated life, as if it's a diary entry. I think Bridget Jones has set the tone for a lot of books, and I don't want to write one of those, even though some of them have become very popular and the authors are enjoying generous advances and rewards for their hard labor.

So I did a search on "how to write a story" and came up with thousands of options. Usually fiction writing advice is vague or too complicated to be practical. It's as if the writer is lonely and wants us to join them in their garbled thinking because no one else is there.

But the advice at this site is really helpful. The site is for kids, but that's great for people like me who want clear answers instead of puffed-up words written by a self-smitten writer who's out to impress. It seems that the non-fiction world, especially business writing, has plenty of people who try their best to communicate clearly in a straightforward way, but in the fiction world, being like that is uncool or unattainable.

Here's a sampling of some of that kids site's storytelling advice:

"To keep the story interesting, the more times your hero tries and fails, the better."

This is what they say about conflict and the central problem that your character has. You have to ask:

"What is your main character's problem?
Is the problem big enough so that it will take a whole story to solve it?
Do other characters help create the problem?
Does the setting influence the problem?
What steps does your hero take to try and fail to solve the problem?"

About resolution:

"It's best if the story's hero solves the problem on his or her own...It's great if one of the hero's faults turns out to be a strength that leads to the resolution of the story."

Questions to ask about the resolution:

"How does your main character finally solve the problem?
If possible, can they solve it using their own strength or wits?"

And a general question:

"Think about a story you like.  What makes it good?  Can you identify the main character, the setting, the problem and the resolution?"

So I went through all the questions and points, and realized that I have a lot of tweaking to do. Even though I realized the lameness of what I wrote, it didn't bum me out because I have found a way to effectively evaluate what I've written instead of being more confused.


Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

10 19 05

Good post; I needed that information so thx:) You always touch more people than you know; which is why I love the internet:)

mj said...

That's why this type of writing is very satisfying--you can be creative and have your own voice, and at least a few people pay attention to what you're saying.